By Linda Kor
A heavy downpour and a clogged drainage pipe are believed to have been the causes behind a dirt berm being washed out beneath a small section of the Apache Railroad track on Friday, Aug. 30, near McLaws Road at the south end of Holbrook.
Don Fischer, who owns property adjacent to where the railway runs through, said that it appeared that the drainage ditch was clogged with debris, allowing water to build up next to the railroad tracks.
“Water must have built up and then seeped into some gopher holes, weakening the wall enough to where it finally blasted its way through,” he said. The result was a gaping hole directly under the railroad tracks nearly large enough to drive a car through.
According to Fischer, another nearby property owner called the Navajo County Sheriff’s Office dispatch to notify officials of the situation and concerns regarding the possible weakening of the railway structure. The men assumed that the problem would be forwarded to the proper authorities and dealt with accordingly.
“The next morning I get a phone call from my neighbor and he tells me a train just came down the tracks and even more of the ground beneath it had collapsed. I couldn’t believe it! I called dispatch again and they said they’d called the railway to notify them, but all they got was an answering machine so nothing else was done,” explained Fischer.
Concerned that the ground could give way and possibly derail a train, he asked that an officer come out to the site.
“A Holbrook police officer showed up and stayed there until the railroad people showed up. The local police did a great job on being there and getting a hold of the right people,” he said.
Railroad crews showed up on Saturday and worked several days on the project, filling in the gap and ensuring that the track was secure and safe for travel.
Efforts to reach Apache Railway officials for comment regarding the incident were unsuccessful prior to press time.
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By Linda Kor